21/01/2010/8:00 pm, Fort Lauderdale, FL
It is a beautiful temperature here. The sun is hot - we are definitely in T-shirts and shorts - and it's just breezy enough to keep us from burning up.
Over the last couple of days, we've walked, laughed, eaten and ogled. On Wednesday evening, we went with Sandra and Steve (Princess) to see Capitol Steps - a comedy group from Washington DC perform at the beautiful Broward Center for the Performing Arts just down the way. We got as dressed up as we get on a boat, munched on hearty appetizers (pickled herring, cheese, sausage, veggies and spicy hummus) and set off to be entertained. And entertained we were! This troupe has some funny, politically focused routines and even we "aliens" got most of them. The pace was fast, the jokes well timed and everything in good fun. Our mouths dropped open was when the "detective" introduced himself. "First name, Hugh. Second name, Jim. Last name, Bissell. They call me "Hugeimbecile!" It's a line similar to one Jim has used before. In his version, "I'm a Jimbissell, not an imbecile!"
Thursday was Water Taxi Day. Steve, Jim and I took a short run down the river to Bahia Mar, ogling the mansions and yachts all the while. We had a short walk on the beach there and returned to meet up with Sandra and their friend Pete who had driven down from St. Lucie for a visit. Pete was kind enough to take us all on a run to West Marine and a diesel can fill up. (We can always think of one more thing we "need" and this time, we purchased a solar light to attach to the stern rail for some cockpit lighting.) We returned to the river to have lunch at the Briny Irish Pub. The food was very good, the ceiling is chock-a-block full of all things maritime so there is lots to look at, and the company was excellent! I ate a crisp and tasty gorgonzola salad while the others had delicious fish and chips - light and tender batter and tasty fish.
After a short nap (it's the heat, you know) we set off again on the water taxi. It is a great deal - $15 for a whole day ticket that allows us to get on and off at any one of 11 stops. This time we went all the way to stop 11, ... After a short walk to view the beach and check out the ocean conditions, we returned to Shooters for happy hour beers, calamari, grouper fingers and guacamole. Our trip back in the dark allowed us to play voyeur and catch glimpses inside many of the well lit homes. The amount of space given to grand foyers, massive chandeliers and soaring ceilings is impressive. Drapes were rarely closed and we could see folks working in kitchens, sitting around dining tables, and sometimes lounging on patios as they watched us watching them.
The jokes told by the guides were for the most part lame and unoriginal - but it was interesting to hear who owns - or used to own - many of the houses: inventors and entrepreneurs and actors. Blockbuster, Taco Bell, a giant waste management company (whose boat is named Business Stinks!) Sunglass Hut. Sports team owners have party places here and many actors former homes line the river - Cher, Leonard Nimoy, Dinah Shore, Vivien Leigh, Farrah Fawcett.
Another day of exploration over, we settled down for a quiet night on the river.
21/01/2010/9:14 am, Fort Lauderdale, FL
As we came through the inlet at Fort Lauderdale we spied three cruise ships tied up at the terminals and it felt a wee bit like Halifax! The similarity ended pretty soon though as we turned the corner north and headed up the ICW toward the New River. There were huge motor yachts and mansions on all sides.
We had been playing games with speed during the last part of the trip down the outside from Lake Worth, first thinking we didn't want to make the inlet too early and then thinking maybe an early arrival would be good. The reasoning behind all this is fourfold.
The New River, flowing down into Port Everglades is swift moving, winding and busy. There are three lift bridges (four if you count the railroad bridge which is usually up) that we would have to get through. They all open on request - except from 4:30 to 6 p.m. (NOT 4:30 to 5:30 as it says in our guidebooks). It gets dark around 6 p.m. (although there is still quite a lot of ambient light). Because of the swift current, it is important to arrive at the marina at slack tide. Complicating this last bit is the fact that slack tide at Sailors Bend - where Cooley's Landing is located - is not easily apparent without local knowledge.
You know already that this all turned out happily, so perhaps you can just recreate the tension as I tell you the rest of the story.
We had been on the phone with both a fellow from the marina and with our friend, Steve (Princess). We had read the books and charts so we knew what markers in what order. We came through Port Everglades Inlet at 3:50, cleared the 55 foot bridge and were making our way north on the ICW as I got on the radio to call the first opening bridge (3rd Ave.) When I asked the bridgemaster if he thought we could make all the bridges before they closed, he said, "Maybe." Fortunately, Matt - the New River Dockmaster broke in to say he didn't think we could. (Just like the old telephone days when party lines were open and anyone with more information could interject!)
Matt suggested that we hold off, explaining that even if we did get up there, the tide wouldn't be slack at the Marina and we couldn't get in anyway. He gave specific instructions for where we could stop along the wall just before the 3rd Ave bridge and agreed to be there to catch our lines. Steve and Sandra called to say they'd be there too so then all we had to do was get there!
The mansions and yachts lining the river were enormous and as Jim navigated and I readied lines and fenders, we tried to take peeks at them. As we rounded Tarpon Bend - marker G 11 - we met a 40 ft motor yacht but both Jim and the other helmsman skillfully passed each other. Soon enough, we came to the bend in the river where we could see Matt, Steve, and Sandra on the bank where we were to tuck in between two boats (always a trick with this boat - full keel and no fancy bow thrusters). Jim did a masterful job and with much help from the shore crew, we got tied up and then looked around at upward at the breathtaking sight. Huge condo and apartment buildings on both sides of the river - giant motor and sail boats ahead and behind - people everywhere. It was just awesome.
After celebratory dark'n'stormies, Sandra, Steve, Jim and I walked up to Cooley's Landing to eyeball the trip we'd take the next morning. A delicious pasta dinner on Princess topped off the evening and we strolled back to Madcap in the heart of the evening action, had a surprisingly quiet night, and woke up to watch more boat movement and chat with the many folks out for morning strolls and dog walks.
Slack tide at Cooley's landing is one half hour before and after high tide at Andrews St bridge and between 2 and 3 hours after low tide at Andrews St bridge. This meant that the optimum time for us to depart in the morning would be around 11. About that time, the railroad bridge was frequently closed while people were working on it and the traffic on Channel 09 was constant as boats called the bridges. We managed to break in and requested an opening of the 3rd Ave bridge while the railroad bridge was up, dropped our lines and headed up river.
It all went very well, and even though Jim sprouted some more grey hairs as we held in place for the Andrews Bridge, we had no close calls. There were 3 vessels outbound there and when I asked if they would please let us come through first because we were being pushed by current, there was no hesitation and the first boat called back, "Sure, come on through, sweetheart!" (I don't always take kindly to being called sweetheart by complete strangers, but sometimes it is just fine!)
As we turned the corner by the Performing Arts Centre, I heard folks on the board walk call out, "Madcap! Madcap! We read your blog!" What a rush that was! I think they said they are friends of Carole and Richard's but that's all I caught (so I hope you'll send a message or come by Cooley's Landing!)
By the time we got to the marina just past the 7th Ave bridge, Steve and Sandra were ready to catch our lines. The tide was not quite slack but the current was not so strong that we couldn't make the turn into our slip. If you zoom in on Google Earth with the coordinates above, you'll be able to see in fine detail right where we are. (Not Madcap herself, of course, but the slip!)
We had no plans to come here until the combination of friends and weather made it a good option, but having done so, we wouldn't have missed this trip up the river for anything, and we're all set to enjoy a few days here. We're in the heart of the city - an easy riverside walk from the Performing Arts Centre, a lively Irish Pub, the historic district, and just a few blocks from Las Olas Blvd. It is a good place to be!
20/01/2010/2:59 pm, Fort Lauderdale, FL
Oh My Goodness!!! We made it up the New River! What an awesome experience. White Knuckle for sure but wouldn't have missed it for the world. Spent Tuesday night on the wall just before the 3rd Ave bridge because we couldn't make the openings before the rush hour closure and then it would be dark. Safely got the rest of the way to Cooley's Landing on Wed. Will update lat and long and tell you more later!